Larrechea boosts Sale
By Ben Blackmore. Last Updated: 24/11/06 9:45pm
Daniel Larrechea proved a more-than-able deputy for the injured Charlie Hodgson as he inspired Sale Sharks to a 17-12 victory against Harlequins.
The French fly-half scored 12 points in all, with the home side racing into a 14-3 lead at the break.
Harlequins struck back in the second half, however, with the boot of Adrian Jarvis bringing the London side two within two points of parity.
But opposite number Larrechea struck the telling blow, his third penalty of the match sealing victory for the reigning champions and bringing a positive end to a miserable few days.
Sale lost successive Guinness Premiership matches against Bristol and Newcastle - the latter defeat at home prompting an apology from director of rugby Phillipe Saint-Andre.
Then England number 10 Hodgson and prop Andrew Sheridan were ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering injuries during last Saturday's Test win against South Africa.
And to make matters worse, Scotland captain Jason White followed his club team mates into a lengthy rehabilitation.
Indeed, Sale's start to the match indicated more of the same for the Edgeley Park faithful, with an early Larrachea penalty miss followed by a successful kick from Jarvis.
But Larrachea gradually began to exert his influence on proceedings, some deft handling of the ball being backed up with a drop goal from the 'Quins 22 after 15 minutes that levelled the match.
A successful penalty then saw Larrachea edge Sale ahead, with the hosts scoring their first try in four matches after 22 minutes.
Poor handling in midfield was exploited by flanker Magnus Lund, the sometime England international combining well with centre Lee Thomas to exploit a gap in the Harlequins defence.
Although Larrachea failed to convert, another successful penalty conversion contributed to Sale's comfortable half-time lead.
Looking for their fourth win in a row, Harlequins mounted an impressive second half response, with Jarvis's first penalty pulling Harlequins back to within five points after 55 minutes.
And local hearts were certainly in mouths when a 45-metre Jarvis effort found its target with nine minutes remaining to secure the bonus point.
But it was left to Larrachea to ease the fears of Sharks fans, his fourth goal of the evening settling matters in favour of the home side and getting their title defence back on track.
Sat 16th May
Bath50 - 30Gloucester
Exeter44 - 16Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers22 - 14Northampton
London Irish40 - 40Wasps
London Welsh17 - 68Saracens
Newcastle Falcons37 - 21Harlequins
Sat 23rd May - Semi Final
Northampton0 - 0Saracens
Bath0 - 0Leicester Tigers